Alumna Kaitlyn Stallard receives Outstanding New Teacher award

Feb 17, 2022
Kaitlyn Stallard

Kaitlyn Stallard ‘20 was shocked and honored when she found out she had been awarded the Diocese of Wichita 2022 St. Philippine Duchesne Outstanding New Teacher Award.

Stallard earned her Bachelor of Science in Education at Newman University and now teaches second grade at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School in Wichita, Kansas.

Her school principal, Kylan Collins, nominated her for the award. Collins’ plan to surprise Stallard with the award presentation during a school assembly Feb. 3 was thwarted by Mother Nature when school was canceled because of snow and dangerous winter conditions.

Since a story would break in the local Catholic newspaper the next day, Collins and several other school staff members arranged a Zoom meeting to give Stallard the good news.

A virtual bestowing of the award

When Stallard received the email notifying her that there would be a mandatory Zoom meeting with all faculty, she started wondering if the school building couldn’t handle the weather and there was some sort of flooding or some other disaster.

“I was freaking out a little and my mom knew so she thought it was pretty comedic,” said Stallard. “She even thanked Mr. Collins for putting some humor into her morning.”

It didn’t take Stallard too long to notice the Zoom meeting wasn’t going to be about the school collapsing. She also figured out that it wouldn’t be a regular meeting, either.

Kaitlyn Stallard is presented with the  Diocese of Wichita 2022 St. Philippine Duchesne Outstanding New Teacher Award by Dr. Jamie Finkeldei, Associate Superintendent.
Kaitlyn Stallard is presented with the Diocese of Wichita 2022 St. Philippine Duchesne Outstanding New Teacher Award by Jamie Finkeldei, associate superintendent.

“We got on the Zoom and then slowly, people were popping on that shouldn’t be there. And then my grandmother got on and my mom got on and one of my mentors got on. Of course, I knew by then that something was happening but I had no idea what that could be.”

Stallard was presented with the news and congratulated by everyone on the call and the next day, when school was back in session, she was given the award in person.

“I was speechless,” said Stallard. “I think I still am. I don’t know that it’s fully sunk in that out of every teacher in the diocese who’s taught less than five years, I was the one who was awarded.”

Taking teaching to the next level

She said her favorite thing about teaching isn’t even about the teaching itself — it’s about creating special relationships with her students.

“It is the little relationships that I have with all of them; some of them crack me up and some of them are super sarcastic like I am, and that’s hilarious because they’ll go back and forth with me.”

She enjoys hearing about their favorite activities, learning about things they are excited about and hearing them talk about the good things happening within their families.

“I think it’s more of those little connections that I have with them than the actual teaching of the content. It’s really very special.”

Stallard’s next step is completing her master’s degree — also from Newman. She has been attending classes to earn her Master of Science in Education with a concentration of English as a second language (ESOL) curriculum and instruction.

Eventually, she sees herself working in administration and working her way up in leadership. She hopes to one day become a superintendent.

“I want to work for the state and I hope I can actually make a difference for our ESOL kids,” explained Stallard. “How we test them, how we approach their education, how we treat teachers and how standards are set up. I want to change all of that as somebody who’s actually been in the classroom. So ultimately, that’s my goal. I want to change what education looks like in Kansas.”

Stallard said approximately 85% of her students use Spanish as their first language. She feels they have a legitimate disadvantage when it comes to testing. Because everything they are doing is outside their comfort zone, she feels educators do not have a true gauge of the level at which each student is working.

She doesn’t speak Spanish but said she is slowly learning because her students will teach her. Learning basic phrases and common words are helping Stallard communicate not only with the students but with their families as well.

A hometown university experience

Attending Newman has helped set Stallard up for success in many ways. Her goal was always to work within the Catholic school system, and being able to do her practicum in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita Schools helped her focus on improving her skills with that specific structure of curriculum.

“In Catholic school, we structure everything ourselves. I think the fact that I did all this work in these Catholic schools, I was allowed to spread my wings a little bit more.”

Kaitlyn Stallard
Kaitlyn Stallard

Her Newman experience was and still is no different. Being able to step outside the box and find her path while learning is something she is very grateful for.

“My Newman professors were always so supportive,” said Stallard. “And it didn’t matter if your lesson plan that you turned in was terrible. It didn’t matter if your assignment that you turned in was terrible. You could always redo it and try to get a better grade. 

“And it wasn’t about what the ultimate grade was, but could you do it and did you understand the material,” she added. “I could email any of my professors at any given time. I could call their extension. They would either call me back. They would email me back right away. I always felt very supported. So I was able to focus on my education because I wasn’t out there trying to do it by myself. I knew I had the support of Newman behind me.”

The school itself is small and has a close-knit family feeling. With only 15 teachers on staff, she said it is a community in which everybody works together very closely and is just there for each other.

I was able to focus on my education because I wasn’t out there trying to do it by myself. I knew I had the support of Newman behind me.”

Kaitlyn Stallard

She credited Newman for the ability to work so independently and efficiently.

A faith-integrated passion

“Newman is the reason I can stand on my own two feet and say, ‘Well, I can do this.’ I was confident in what I knew because my professors made sure I was confident in what I knew. And I knew how to look at testing data. And because of how my professors taught me, because of the culture that is Newman, I’m able to, as a second-year teacher, to lead a first-year teacher here at the school.”

Teaching at St. Margaret Mary has been a joyous and life-changing learning experience. She said she is most proud to work in the Catholic school system, where she can incorporate Jesus into each of her days.

“It’s just the most amazing thing and to share Jesus with them,” Stallard said. “I couldn’t work somewhere where I couldn’t talk about God. So we talk about God all the time when something bad happens when something good happens. And I just love the culture here, it’s always about giving back. It’s never about what we need.”